Last Time I Lied
by Riley Sager
Have you ever played two truths and a lie?
Emma has. Her first summer away from home, she learned how to play the game. And she learned how to lie.
Then three of her new friends went into the woods and never returned . . .
Now, years later, Emma has been asked to go back to the newly re-opened Camp Nightingale. She thinks she’s laying old ghosts to rest but really she’s returning to the scene of a crime.
Because Emma’s innocence might be the biggest lie of all . . .
I received an eARC of Last Time I Lied from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
You know that feeling when you’re really torn about a book? That’s how I feel about Last Time I Lied right now.
I previously read Sager’s Final Girls and really enjoyed it – I loved how he took a horror trope and turned it into a thriller – so when I learned he was doing something similar with his second book, this time set at a summer camp, I knew I had to try it.
I don’t read thrillers very often because I’m a historical and fantasy fiction girl at heart, but I usually enjoy them when I read them, and horror is a genre I’m trying to get into more. I’m a big wuss, though, and my imagination is far too vivid for me to read and watch horror regularly. Even true crime podcasts freak me out if I listen to them in big chunks.
I’m mainly saying this because I’m not as familiar with the tropes that might appear in thrillers as I am with tropes from the fiction I regularly read, so keep that in mind if you’re someone who reads a lot of thrillers because I’m probably not the best person to tell you whether or not you’ll guess what happens in this novel.
Emma is an artist in New York City who’s given the opportunity to work as an art teacher at a summer camp that’s reopening 15 years after it closed amidst a scandal, when three of the campers went missing and were never seen again. Emma was the fourth girl in that cabin, and she has never gotten over the girls’ disappearance – possibly because she feels as though she might have had a hand in it.
I’m the kind of reader who loves characters. Characters make a book for me, and that’s why this novel has me so torn because I didn’t like any of the characters – and I don’t think we’re necessarily supposed to like them, and I don’t think we need to like characters to be interested in them – but the plot I liked a lot. I did not see the end of this novel coming, and it’s that reason alone that’s left me giving Last Time I Lied three stars instead of two.
This is a very well-plotted novel, and I really admired how various plot points came together, but the characters were a huge fail for me.
Emma is such a non-character. Other than the things we learn to move the plot along, I don’t think we really get to know her at all and that’s a real shame – an unreliable narrator can be so fun in a thriller, but I just didn’t care about Emma at all and that made it difficult to root for her. Her ‘big secret’ surrounding her guilt is kind of lame, and I found it strange that 15 years since the disappearance of the girls, other people were still holding things that Emma said when she was 13 – a child – against her. The suspicions she had as a child were perfectly valid.
I also wasn’t that keen on how Sager wrote women in this novel. I’m not saying women need to be perfect – the point of feminism is that we aren’t; we’re people with all the foibles natural to human beings – but there was a lot of that ‘teenage girls are mean’ crap that I’m not a fan of. It all felt a little too ‘Regina George does summer camp’ for me to believe it, which was a shame.
Ultimately I’d recommend this novel if you’re prepared to be more invested in the plot than the characters, but if you’re in the mood for a thriller, especially if you’re someone who doesn’t reach for thrillers often, this is a fun one that will keep you guessing!